RICHMOND — Gov. Ralph Northam (D) signed an executive order Tuesday offering paid time off for state employees for the birth or adoption of a child, moving Virginia in line with a small but growing number of states.
Until Tuesday, Virginia provided parental leave only to employees who had given birth. And they had to use vacation time, sick time and then short-term disability, which provided only a fraction of their normal pay.
The new benefits, which took effect immediately, provide eight weeks of leave at full pay to mothers and fathers alike. Workers who become parents through adoption or foster placement are also eligible.
“The steps we are taking today will support the growth of our children, help parents in managing a work-life balance, contribute to a healthier and more productive workforce, and make the government of this Commonwealth an even more attractive place to work,” Northam, a pediatrician, said in a written statement.
Under a separate executive order, Northam authorized the formation of a commission to study providing child care for state employees on or around Capitol Square. First lady Pam Northam, a former science teacher, will help lead the panel.
Nine other states plus the District provide paid family leave to all or some of their workforce, according to National Partnership for Women & Families. They are Washington state, New York, California, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri and Ohio.
Maryland joins their ranks Oct. 1, when state employees will be entitled to up to 60 days of paid leave, after sick leave and vacation time are exhausted. Delaware’s legislature passed a bill to expand leave benefits last week, which Gov. John Carney (D) has pledged to sign.
Parental leave benefits for state employees remain “sparse and uncommon,” but they are part of a trend, said Vicki Shabo, vice president for workplace policies and strategies at the National Partnership for Women & Families. “This is part of the momentum that we’re seeing.”
In Virginia, the new parental leave benefits apply to executive branch employees, who number just over 99,000, Northam spokeswoman Ofirah Yheskel said. The cost was estimated at $495,000 a year.
Northam’s order does not cover judicial or legislative branch employees, or workers at independent state agencies such as the Virginia Lottery. Employees of Virginia’s House of Delegates were already eligible for 12 weeks of paid leave for the birth or adoption of a child, under a policy that Speaker M. Kirkland Cox (R-Colonial Heights) ushered in earlier this year.
“The Speaker is glad to see the governor following the lead of the House on this important issue,” Cox spokesman Parker Slaybaugh said in an email.